Letters from Lodi
An insightful and objective look at viticulture and winemaking from the Lodi
Appellation and the growers and vintners behind these crafts. Told from the
perspective of multi-award winning wine journalist, Randy Caparoso.
Harmony’s Pipe Dreams zin rolls in
When you take a tub of grapes and ferment it with the yeast that has grown naturally on their own skins, you are incorporating the vineyard’s indigenous microbiology. If those grapes happen to be Zinfandel grown in Lodi, the resulting red wine will not necessarily compare to other wines made from Lodi grown Zinfandel – you may like others better. Yet it is more likely to taste like the best possible wine made from that vineyard because you’ve allowed the grapes’ own yeast to play a part in the wine’s fermentation, and ultimately its flavor.
The family at Lodi’s Harmony Wynelands – owners Bob and Linda Hartzell, their winemaker/son Shaun MacKay and their consulting winemaker Chad Joseph – are proud to announce the release of one such wine: the Harmony Wynelands Pipe Dreams Old Vine Zinfandel ($44). They strongly feel this is the best Zinfandel they have ever made because it’s a blend of wines from the two best barrels selected over three consecutive years – 2007, 2008 and 2009 (which is why Pipe Dreams a nonvintaged wine) – that were primarily wild yeast fermented and matured in French/American oak barrels for a very long time: the ’07 portion for three years, the ’08 for two years, and the ’09 for one year. A convergence, as it were, of old and young, the smooth and rambunctious, the suave and the surly.
“The goal,” says Mr. MacKay, “was to say that this vineyard (the Harmony Wynelands estate’s oldest plantings, located on the east side of Lodi’s Mokelumne River AVA) may be a little wild, even farmed a little loosely… but this is the taste of this vineyard – a ripe black cherry with a little bit of bittersweet cocoa, and an almost butterscotchy richness and feel.” In fact, MacKay adds, “recently I’ve been finding myself describing it as tasting like ‘grapes’ – which doesn’t tell you verymuch except that it tastes like our grapes.”
Our own tasting notes? Pipe Dreams tastes like sweetly concentrated, dried cherry, veering on raisins, with cinnamon stick and cracked peppercorn spices. Big, broad, hellbent and fleshy in the mouth – nothing subtle or gentile here – with the spiced dried fruit intensity layered like a canvas of black velvet. If you like this type of full throttled Lodi Zinfandel, then we suggest you snatch up these beautifully engraved bottles while you can!
Why the name, Pipe Dreams? Say MacKay, “it’s a tribute to our family, who came from a different background from the longer established families here in Lodi. But we bought this vineyard because we had our own dream of a better life, growing grapes and making wine. The name also fits because of the massive, majestic Robert Morton organ housed in the winery; a 1,500 pipe instrument that originally graced San Francisco’s Castro Theatre, purchased and installed by the music loving Bob Hartzell in 1987.
What MacKay didn’t mention during our last chat is that there is also a lot of himself in Pipe Dreams: particularly the years he once spent in the Hawaiian Islands – with its famous surf rolling and hissing onto shores of soft, glistening sand like liquid blue foaming pipes – seeking a spiritual balance and harmony in his own life, before coming back home to discover it in the vineyard that the Hartzells had named, fortuitously, Harmony. The farther you go, the sooner you come back around.
They say surfing is religion. If that’s the case, making wine from your own grapes, in the spores and dust that you live and breathe everyday, may very well be a nirvana it itself.